Our mothers ask us to drink clean water and not drink water from unreliable sources. What happens when we tend to drink water from the roadside lemonade seller or from that ‘dirty’ roadside ‘gol gappe waala’ whose ‘chaat’ we find so yummy? We get an upset tummy and we have to rush to the doctor. Why so? Because the water we had was contaminated. It was dirty and had harmful bacteria in it.
What is water pollution?
Water pollution is the process which happens when pollutants contaminate water. Contamination of water bodies like lakes, rivers, oceans and groundwater occur when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without any treatment to remove harmful compounds. Water pollution has become a global concern now as many deaths and diseases are caused by drinking impure, dirty water. Many countries like India and China lack adequate amount of safe drinking water and thousands die every day due to drinking contaminated water. Even developed countries like the United States of America suffer from the issue of contaminated water. When water is affected by anthropogenic (caused by humans) contaminants, it is said to be polluted. This means that this water is not safe for drinking purposes.
Who pollutes water?
Earthquakes, volcano eruptions and natural environmental disasters add a large amount of pollution to water bodies. Human and animal waste too, pollute water and make it harmful for consumption.
Every year tonnes of industrial waste and toxic chemicals from factories and manufacturing plants are released directly into water bodies, without proper waste management or recycling, harming the balance of water bodies.
Wastes from humans and animals too pollute water and make it harmful for consumption. Toxic chemicals discharged directly into water bodies without control or contamination management, also pollute water and cause irreparable harm to marine life.
Some common ways water is polluted
- Oil spills from huge ships
- Leakage of fuel from boats
- Chemical waste from industries
- Plastics thrown in rivers
- Dumping trash into water bodies
- Sewage water produced by households
- Burning of fossils fuels like coal and oil
- Chemical fertilizers
Types of water pollution
1. Nutrients pollution : Industries throw their wastes like fertilizers, waste water and sewage into river bodies. These make weed and algae grow rapidly in the water, making it unsuitable for drinking while depleting the level of oxygen in the water. This harms the organisms living in water.
2. Surface water pollution : Ground pollutants like chemical wastes, insecticides and other wastes mix with rain water run offs, dissolve and mix with water bodies like streams, rivers and lakes. This is known as surface water pollution.
3. Oxygen depletion : Water contains aerobic and anaerobic organisms, i.e., organisms which need oxygen to grow and which die in oxygen, respectively. With an increase in water pollutants, the oxygen level will deplete, leading to the death/choking of aerobic organisms.
4. Ground water pollution : Chemicals and pesticides are used in growing crops. These harmful substances enter the ground along with rainwater and cause the water table to get contaminated. This is known as groundwater pollution. They also enter lakes and rivers when groundwater spills occur.
Effects of water pollution
The accumulation of garbage in our water bodies come from human activities and neglect and total disrespect for our natural resources. The effects of water pollution are gory and have long term effects which are very difficult to undo.
It makes sea creatures like fishes, sea turtles, seals and even birds die, because materials such as plastic is mistaken as food by animals and eaten. Since it cannot be digested, it sometimes causes death in some cases.
Unclean and contaminated water causes human deaths and diseases. In many places, water comes in contact with industrial and human wastes and people drink such contaminated water. They are prone to deaths and diseases like hepatitis, cholera or typhoid. Water pollution accounts for as many as three million deaths every year, most of which are children.
Water pollution disrupts the food chain on land, water and air. Tiny animals eat toxins along with their food. Bigger animals eat smaller animals. This leads to high levels of chemical toxicity in bigger animals. Toxins accumulation from the lower level to higher level of the food chain occurs.
Things that you can do to conserve water and make it safe :
- Water is precious, so use water wisely. Do not waste water in the shower and always close taps when not in use.
- Do not throw paint, oil, medicines or plastic down your toilet drains. Contact your municipal corporation for help with disposing chemicals or medicines.
- Plant lots and lots of trees around your homes to encourage clean rain water to replenish your water table/ground water and adopt rain water harvesting.
- Farmers can be encouraged to use Integrated Pest Management techniques to control pests and reduce dependency on chemical pesticides.